Forsyth County health officials confirm first Zika travel-related case

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — This week, the Forsyth County Department of Public Health confirmed the first case of Zika virus infection in a Forsyth County patient who had recently travelled to a country with ongoing Zika virus transmission.

“The FCDPH is working closely with North Carolina Division of Public Health, providers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help with diagnosis testing in persons returning from areas with active mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus,” said Marlon Hunter, Health Director, in a prepared statement.

At this time, no cases of the disease are known to have been acquired in Forsyth County or elsewhere in North Carolina. As of March 9, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported five travel-related Zika virus infections in North Carolina.

Forsyth County Health Department is home to one of several Vector Control Programs across the state and has already started its regular mosquito control activities around the county. That includes capturing bugs so they can be tested.

“The variety that can and will be potential vectors of such things as Zika or Chicken Gunga or something like that so basically we want to figure out if it’s present in our local mosquito population,” said Brock Turner, Supervisor of Water and Wastewater in Forsyth County.

Turner said they put out around 10 electronic nets a night and sometimes collect up to 200 bugs.

Zika virus is transmitted through the bite of an infectious mosquito, although cases of transmission through sexual contact and blood transfusion have also been reported. Symptoms can include rash, red eyes, fever and joint pain. Only about one in five people infected with Zika virus will show symptoms.

A pregnant woman infected with Zika virus can pass the virus to her unborn baby. A serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other adverse pregnancy outcomes have been reported in some infants born to mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant.

FCDPH is in constant communication with health providers, including obstetricians and gynecologists, to ensure they have the latest information, as well as access to guidance and testing from state health officials.

While the primary mosquitoes that carry Zika virus are not believed to be widespread in North Carolina, individuals are always encouraged, as a routine precaution, to take steps to prevent mosquito bites, such as:

  • Eliminating potential breeding sites in their own yards on a weekly basis: draining water from garbage cans, house gutters, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other container where sprinkler or rain water has collected.
  • Discarding any items, however small, that may collect water. Remember to clean bird baths and pet water bowls twice a week.
  • Wearing shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves, and apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing.
  • Always use an EPA registered insect repellent according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picardin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535 are effective.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel advisory recommending pregnant women consider postponing travel to any area with active Zika virus transmission. Women who are trying to become pregnant should talk to their doctors about the risk of Zika virus infection before traveling.

For additional information about Zika please visit http://www.forsyth.cc/PublicHealth/or call Forsyth County Department of Public Health-Division of Environmental Health at 336-703-3225.

Hunter encourages homeowners and renters to be vigilant around their properties and makes sure there is no standing water collecting in wheelbarrows, cups or even bottle caps.

“Get outside, clean up your yards, get rid of potential breeding sites so that you can have some peace of mind when you're sitting outside or when you find yourself bit by a mosquito,” said Hunter.